As I look back over my writings here and elsewhere over the past few years, I note that many whom I call spiritual mentors and heroes were men and women not afraid to speak up in protest when political actions stood in opposition to their Christian principles or simply their notions of morality.
On the day after national protests on behalf of immigrants, I am certain that persons such as Rabbi Abraham Heschel, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Daniel Berrigan, Dorothy Day, and Pete Seeger would have been at airports yesterday on behalf of those detained by presidential edict. I know that today Thomas Merton would be penning a letter of protest.
Some who call themselves Christian have criticized those who speak out, claiming there is no place in Christianity for politics. Yet the founder of Christianity was a rebel who spoke out and who constantly challenged not just religious officials but politicians as He reminded time and again us to love our neighbor, telling us, among other things, “I was a stranger and you invited me into your home.”
I fear that in some ways Christianity has failed. I was accused once of being a “Cafeteria Catholic”, picking and choosing what I believe. So be it. I choose to think about what I believe, not accept it without question. In any case, many Christians nowadays pick and chose what they quote from the Bible. Some offer an arbitrary definition of what it means to be “pro-life”. Others justify war and violence.
I’m hardly a Biblical scholar but it seems clear to me that we are called to love our neighbor without exception! This means I am called to love not only the nice people but also my enemy. Jesus Christ didn’t seem to make any exceptions to the commandment to love.
It isn’t easy being a Christian. It never was meant to be. I’ll close then with a scene from the classic movie On the Waterfront. In this scene, we see a Catholic priest stand up to gangsters who ran the union for dock workers. This character was based on a real priest (one who in fact was criticized for his political involvement!) His words, as portrayed by Karl Malden, speak to us today during this time when, as Christians, we are called not to be silent.
Reflection: What if any role does protest play in your spiritual journey?